Voice Your Vote: The History of African Americans and the Right to Vote

Pickets, Roy DeCarava, 1946

Line of voters outside Ebenezer Baptist Church, July 1946

In November 2018, we will find ourselves at the precipice of a historic midterm election. Although in many ways it seems as if America has taken steps back in recent years, we cannot forget that less than 60 years ago African Americans in many states were barred from exercising their constitutional right to vote through intimidation and violence. Through court battles and civil disobedience, the right to vote was eventually secured for African Americans in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. This historic legislation not only increased the influence and power African Americans had in determining electoral outcomes, but it also opened the doors for African Americans to become city council members, mayors, members of Congress, and eventually, President of the United States.

In a country that may be imperfect in many ways, it is important for us to look back, not only to the struggles of the civil rights movement, but also to the hope that its participants held for America to become a more perfect union. It is imperative to remember that a democracy cannot thrive unless all citizens participate. We the people have the power to create the change we want to see in our country. #VoiceYourVote in 2018 and in every election year.

Man and Woman with Dignity from the Whitewash series, Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry, 2006-2009

Credits

Created by Tiffany Atwater and Brittanny Newberry (AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library Archives Research Center) & Gayle Schechter (AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library GLAM Center for Collaborative Teaching & Learning)